How Did Owl's Head Get Its Name?
For centuries, people have wondered how Owl's Head received its name. According to Native American legend, the head of an owl can be identified in this rocky cliff that the Indians called Ko-ko-hass-want'ep-ek. Can you locate the owl's head in the rock face?
Hint: it appears below the white, pyramid-shaped bell tower. The base of the tower is centered between its ears and the two cave-like hollows are its eyes. A beak between the eyes has since eroded away.
Owl's Head Light Station
On the western shore of Penobscot Bay stands a short, cylindrical tower known as the Owl's Head Lighthouse. The beam from its lantern-room has guided mariners safely in and out of port since 1825. Its construction was in response to an increase in shipping activity during the early 1800's. The lime industry took off in mid-coast Maine with kilns in Rockland and Thomaston producing 50,000 casks of lime a year.
After numerous complaints about the extreme dangers near the headland, Congress appropriated $4,000 to purchase the land and build a lighthouse at this site. The cost for the 17 acres of land was $258.75. During the summer of 1825, the team of Jeremiah Berry, Captain Ballard Green, and Major Robert Foster received the contract to build the Owl's Head Light Station.
A stone keeper's dwelling was erected when the station was established in 1825. An attempt was made to repoint the stone walls, but the crumbling structure was finally replaced in 1854 by today's wooden cottage.
In 1906, a passage called the covered walkway (in the  photo...) was completed between the lighthouse and the keeper's dwelling. This provided the keeper with protected access to the tower until about 1943 when it was dismantled.
In 1855, when the price of whale oil reached $2.25 a gallon, the United States Lighthouse Service searched for an alternative fuel to illuminate our nation's lighthouses. The choice of highly combustible kerosene prompted the government to erect sturdy little buildings called oil-houses some 100 feet away from any other structure.
After the station was electrified in 1925, a back-up generator was placed in the oil-house. Today, it is home to the automatic fog detector.
In 1894, the boathouse was built in the sheltered cove, northwest of the lighthouse. The boat furnished by the Lighthouse Service was a 13-foot dory. The vessel lacked a sail but was equipped with a good set of oars.
On approach, the keeper lined up the vessel with the center of a set of wooden rails, called the slip, and then rowed onto them. A cable from the hand winch hooked onto the bow and the dory was cranked up the slip into the boathouse. In 1897, a boat car was fitted to the launch way in order to reduce the work in returning the dory to the boathouse.
At a later date, the station received a "peapod," which was a sturdy, double-ended boat. It is uncertain as to when the boathouse was dismantled but a document dated Sept. 8, 1950 reported its absence.
When thick fog sets in along the coast, mariners are unable to see the light. At such times, a sound signal is needed to warn them of the danger of the prominent headland. In 1869, the first fog signal was installed in the form of a small bell that was operated by hand.
It is believed that in the 1870's, an invention called the tide water bell system in the bottom photograph was installed. Secured to the rocks below the lighthouse, it was activated by tidal and wave action.
Two bell towers and a siren were installed later, but today's foghorn is mounted at the base of the tower and the detector is in the brick oil-house. The cylinder on the lantern deck is the backup horn, which operates on batteries when electrical power fails.
Keepers of the Light
On the night of September 10, 1825, Keeper Isaac Sterns lighted the beacon at Owl's Head for the very first time. His vigil was maintained by the following faithful "wickies" who manned the light and sound signal both day and night.
[Light Keepers - see photo]
Today, the automated lighthouse is maintained by the United States Coast Guard's Aids to Navigation Unit in Southwest Harbor, while the keeper's dwelling is occupied by CWO Paul Dilger, his wife Mary Ellen, and their dog Sophie.
Station Established: 1825
Cost of Land: $285
Cost of Buildings: $2,708
Dwelling Rebuilt: 1854
Height of Lighthouse: 30 ft
Height of Focal Plane: 100 ft
Original Optic: 8 Reflectors
Fresnel Lens Installed: 1856
Characteristics: Solid white light
Hand bell - 1869
Tidewater bell - 1870's
Bell tower - 1880
Pyramidal bell tower - 1904
Fog Siren - 1956
Fog Horn - 1960
Characteristic: double blast every 20 secs.
Oil-House Built: 1894
Boathouse Built: 1894
A very special thanks to former Owl's Head Lighthouse Keeper David Bennett for building this kiosk.